From Truth or Dare, Tag, Battleship to even (shudder) Super Mario Bros. there’s no shortage of game options for Hollywood to mine for crappy movies. With Ready or Not we find something unique — a thriller based off a child’s game that’s a lot of fun thanks to some decidedly darker twists and humor.
You can’t pick your your in-laws, but you can kill them. Grace (Samantha Weaving, Mayhem) has finally met the perfect guy in Alex (Mark O’Brien, Arrival), one of the heirs of the massive Le Domas dynasty. The Le Domas built their fortune with games so it’s no surprise the family wants to celebrate the newest member of the family by playing a game. Convinced the family thinks she’s nothing but a gold digger, Grace is happy to play along even if it makes for the most bizarre wedding night ever.
Family patriarch Tony (Henry Czerny, Mission: Impossible) gathers everyone around for the traditional wedding night game. What’s selected is completely random. When Fitch (Kristian Bruun) and Charity (Elyse Levesque) married into the family, they had very basic card and board games chosen. Grace pulls Hide and Seek, which leaves Alex panicked and his older brother, Daniel (Adam Brody, Think Like a Man Too) disgusted.
That’s the one card Grace shouldn’t have pulled as the family is convinced they’ve got to kill her before dawn or lose everything. Grace’s warm and inviting mother-in-law Becky (Andie MacDowell, The Last Laugh) suddenly gets a lot colder and Alex’s if looks could kill Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni) finally looks much happier.
Screenwriters Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy lets the audience in on the murderous nature of the game via an earlier flashback making Grace’s joking reaction so much better. Their script is written in a way that I caught myself thinking I really shouldn’t be laughing at this situation and still cracking up.
Eventually Grace gets clued in and begins a desperate attempt to survive until dawn. And if she can’t escape, maybe she can hang around long enough to see the Le Domas lose it all in the ultimate battle for survival. The cast is all solid. Weaving seems poised for a big showcase project like this and makes the most of her opportunity making Grace a likable and easy to root for protagonist.
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O’Brien is solid as the prodigal son who hasn’t looked forward to returning while Brody is terrific as the jaded, unaffected eldest child. MacDowell has some nice layers to her character beyond the normal trappings of this genre.
Ready or Not is a dark, dark comedy. Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett take a gleeful approach in showing how depraved the wealthy can be and how desperate they are not to lose in by any means necessary…even if it means a literal pact with the devil. That also means some brutally violent and gory murder/action scenes.
Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett don’t shy away from the gore throughout the film and really take it to an extreme level for the final act. There’s plenty of jokes here, but this film is not for folks with easily queasy stomachs. They actually manage to convey some of the inherent fear of a good game of hide and seek with that pending adrenaline rush of the seeker closing in. That makes for some effective jump scares early on before they wisely take a more traditional approach.
The biggest problem with Ready or Not is Grace is as dumb as required on a scene by scene basis. Too often she acts like that brainless teen in a horror movie with zero survival instincts. Ready or Not is on the verge of greatness, but it’s held back by not empowering Grace enough with regards to her survival. You’re Next reached that higher level as main character Erin flipped the switch early on and instead of being a terrified victim started turning the tables on her would be killers.
With this kind of premise, I wanted Grace to be savvier in how she stayed a step ahead of the family. It almost felt like Busick and Murphy could have done more with the Ready or Not idea by having Grace sucker the family into traps and taking them out instead of simply trying to outrun them.
This kind of dings the final act although Grace’s inconsistent lack of competency is necessary for the film’s payoff. That couldn’t happen if Grace became this highly skilled killer. Ultimately, the filmmakers made the right choice for their intended conclusion.
Ready or Not is better than it probably has any right to be, but it’s inspired premise makes for a bloody fun home invasion style thriller.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures